Community Warning: Facebook Predator

I’ve spent the last 48 hours stewing and stunned over a situation that has come back from 2012… Pagans and Polytheists on Facebook, please be on the look-out for a man wishing to assume a female identity or woman in our community messaging you and wishing to talk about headcovering, clothing, or conversion. The situation may not be quite as innocent as it seems.

In August and early September of 2012, members of the all-female headcovering group Occulta Femina on Facebook were getting messaged by a member of the group who claimed to be a pre-transition trans-woman (Note: I am not attacking trans people. I am not saying this is because said person is trans, though I have my questions if that fact is true or not. What this person is doing has nothing to do with that, but uses it as an opening to start pulling you into this conversation with them.) along with being sent friend requests as they worked down the line on someone’s friends list. From there, they would messages from a person claiming to want to approach a God or Goddess (spanning from Christianity to Classical to Heathen and I’m sure basically any other faith) as a woman. The conversation would seem innocent at first; we all tend to be excited to talk to someone interested in the Gods we are. But sooner or later it would take a turn into role-playing… There would be talk about envisioning what clothes she would wear, what name she’d be called (almost always Lori-Anne), and then the desire to have the person approached to lead them to the altar and dedicate, adopt, or otherwise convert them. Sometimes the conversation would focus on domination. Sometimes not. I haven’t talked to anyone who had gone through the entire scenario to the end, so I’m not able to say what was fully played out.

I have read through the conversations that were shared at the time along with the recent days (because this person is at it again in the Pagan and Polytheist facebook world), and I see that this is very much a scripted fantasy of someone who is clearly got issues that have nothing to do with not understanding boundaries. This person has been told multiple times that what they are doing is unacceptable, and yet they are back to doing it on their real life name, which tells me that there’s a compulsive, uncontrollable nature to it.

This worries me.

The person was removed. We somehow moved passed it and managed to institute rules that have fortunately kept out anyone else who could be problematic so far.  The thing is that when this person was banned from Occulta Femina, the admins were called out for not contacting this person about the problem before removing them. I stood behind that decision then, and I most definitely stand behind it now.

So imagine my surprise that this person has popped back into my world in the last few days, this time not under an assumed identity but their actual one.

I received a friends request on Facebook from a man I didn’t know. Looking over the fact that he had 4 mutual friends of mine, I hesitated to add him and decided to wait and see what he was about but didn’t deny him outright. Later he was added to our Roman Revivalist group, so I went ahead and put him on my acquaintance friends list, which would heavily filter out what he could see about me. I’m trying to help people learn about Religio Romana and Revivalism, and so I try to keep myself as open as I feel safe doing, after all.

For the next 24 hours, any time I got onto Facebook to check things, it seemed like he was sending me messages asking me how I was or saying hello. I ignored them, because I don’t always have time for small talk. It bugged me, but I’ve met some enthuisastic people who turned out to be completely normal before. Yesterday morning, I finally responded.

We talked. At first he came off as being worried he wouldn’t be accepted by our group if he approached his religious work as a woman, and I assured him that Roman Revivalism, as a branch of Religio Romana, is welcoming to those feeling called to explore gender on their path. I was rather certain I was talking to someone who was transitioning.

But things started taking a weird turn when he kept hyper-focusing on what he would wear. He started using language where it became clear to me that he was building a picture in his mind of a specific scenario. His tense started changing. He talked about how he could “see it” as if fantasizing. Finally he told me he liked the idea of a matron leading him to be dedicated to Hera/Juno, and told me I should announce it publicly.

I realized suddenly who I was talking to, because I remembered these themes and the name he wanted to go by. I called him on it, and asked him if we were going to have the same problems in our group as we’d had in the past with him. He assured me that wouldn’t happen. But, here’s the thing, this isn’t the first time he’s promised that to others. My gut told me that I was dealing with someone who wasn’t able to keep from playing out this situation repeatedly or simply didn’t care.

I subsequently removed him from the group I admin and banned him from being added again. I messaged all the women in the group and announced on the forum that he’d been removed without going into too much detail but warning that, if things got uncomfortable in private messages, to let me know and block him. I then made sure all the friends I had mutually with him had with him only to discover he’d attempted this scenario with them as well in varying degrees of success.

I woke up yesterday morning feeling compelled to issue a warning to others, because when looking back over the past conversations and new ones shared with me, I noticed that nothing has changed. Worse, I’ve discovered that a large majority of my Pagan and Polytheist Facebook friends have, in fact, had a run in with him. He tends to find someone with a nice, clear friends list and go off of it instead of pulling names from groups.

I am afraid this is going to continue. I’m not releasing his name publicly, because I’m too poor to get involved in a slander case or find myself forced to take this down. We’ve also already seen that he is fully capable of creating another identity, so it wouldn’t do much good anyway.

My recommendation for others on Facebook is, first, use filters liberally. I love my restricted and acquaintance list, and it takes quite some time before I feel comfortable adding people to a full friends list these days.

Secondly, for general safety, if you use Facebook messenger you need to check to make sure that you have the option turned off that shows where you are located. If it is on, those talking to you will be able to pull up where you are on Google maps, even if you do not have your GPS turned on.

And specifically in this case, if you find yourself talking to a person who wants to let you in on a secret about wanting to approach your gods (because this person does their research and knows what religion you practice) as a woman and then begins asking or talking about what you or they would wear (specifically head covering), be wary. Especially if they start talking about forced conversion, domination, or spiritual mothers.

If you’re in Facebook groups with this person, please message all the admins in your group and let them know that this has happened. Send them the link to this blog post and let them know that, if they would like further proof that this is happening, they are free to message me at my Foxglove & Firmitas Facebook page for conversations (with the victims’ names removed) that have happened showing that this is a problem and clearly not innocent. Then I recommend blocking the person.

If you are an admin and someone comes to you with this problem, I would recommend removing this person and banning them from the group before putting out a pinned announcement on the board (and messaging the women of the group if that’s feasible, since not everyone checks all groups every day) to make them aware of the situation.

Stay safe, friends! Together we can do our best at keeping predators out of our community!

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